Jan. 18 2019 06:00 AM

Use these strategies to attract and hire great employees who want to come work for you.

The favorite interview question a decade ago was, “Why do you want this job?” Candidates needed to demonstrate their interest and prove themselves worthy of consideration.

The question that now needs to be answered is, “Why should I take this job?” And it’s the candidate who is doing the asking.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that times have changed. Coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Great Recession, we are nearing full employment. Landscape companies, like many other small and mid-sized businesses, say that finding and hiring talent is a top priority, even as the pool of available talent shrinks to something more like a puddle.

In addition, technology, social media and access to crowdsourced information about hiring managers, companies and job openings has shifted the power to the consumer, i.e., the candidate. People applying for positions at your company have the opportunity to know more about your company, its culture, your pay, practices and interview processes than ever before.

No longer can any of us sit back with the mentality, “If we post it, they will come.” Job opportunities need to be marketed just like products and services, and candidates need to be treated like customers. They expect to be wooed and presented with a compelling value proposition.

This shift in power extends all through the hiring process, even to negotiations around compensation. In California, and in many other states, it is now illegal to ask about current or prior compensation. Candidates are entitled to know the compensation range without divulging any information other than their expectations.

To attract great talent in this atmosphere, progressive companies are changing their approach.

Recruiting has become more like marketing than the mere hiring of warm bodies. It requires thinking ahead and dedicating resources, but the outcome is well worth it. In the long run, it saves time and money as it delivers higher-quality employees that will stay with your organization. Here are five things you should consider doing:

1. Define your value proposition. What is it that makes your company unique and a great place to work? In a marketplace where the demand for candidates exceeds the supply, you need to be able to clearly articulate everything your company can offer. Not all landscaping companies are created equally. Spend time thinking about what is unique to your organization that can be a selling point while hiring.

In the green industry specifically, early-career talent is a critical component of the workforce. What value proposition are you offering this talent pool? A Gallup survey reported that millennials rank the “opportunity to learn and grow” higher than any other generation. Presenting opportunities for professional development and defined career paths will give you a competitive advantage in attracting early-career talent. Spend some time thinking about how you grow and develop your employees, then make that part of your recruiting message.

The answer to the question, “Why join XYZ company?” is something that everyone involved in the hiring process should be able to articulate in a few concise sentences. A clear message that authentically engages the individual gets improved response rates from higher-quality candidates.

2. Create exciting messages about your company and its open positions. In today’s market, candidates will determine whether or not to apply for a job based on what they’ve read on the internet about your company and the types of jobs it offers. In a recent study by LinkedIn, the number one reason millennials didn’t apply for a position was not knowing enough about the company. What information is available about your organization? Does it really tell the story about your company and its openings?

When it comes to social media, many companies wish that sites like Indeed, Glassdoor or Yelp would simply go away. But they’re not going anywhere, and if left unattended, the loudest and most negative voices on those sites will dominate the messaging about your organization. Make sure you are intentionally putting information out on social media that supports your value proposition and offers an authentic, positive view of your company and its culture.

Present your job openings in a fun and exciting way. It’s a pet peeve of mine to see flat, boring job descriptions posted on social media. How is that going to excite a great candidate to consider leaving his current role to take that position? Leave the traditional job description behind as an artifact of the past. Instead, create a forward-looking, digital-friendly and compelling story so that ideal candidates will want to learn more. Trust me — it works!

3. Be competitive with your overall compensation offerings. How does your company’s compensation line up against other companies like yours? In this competitive marketplace, with more access to compensation information than ever before, candidates are quite savvy. You should be, too. There are a host of websites with access to free information and analytics to help you understand salaries across different markets. They include glassdoor.com, salary.com and payscale.com.

Don’t forget that base salary is just one aspect of a total package that includes benefits, vacations, work environment, flexibility and more. To make an attractive offer, be prepared with an understanding of what the candidate wants balanced with your best thinking. Act quickly; we’re seeing more candidates with competitive offers in hand than ever before.

4. Have a backup plan. What if you aren’t able to fill that position? You need to have a plan B. Based on all the factors outlined, candidates are going to have multiple offers to consider. Yours may be declined or you may need to explore a counteroffer. Be prepared to engage with multiple candidates so that you’ll have alternatives in this tight talent market.

5. Always be recruiting. If ever there was a time to be continually recruiting, it’s now. The green industry is at the mercy of seasonal hiring trends. That means you must always be on the lookout for great talent, no matter what time of year it is. Consider starting your recruiting process well before crunch time. Getting a jump on the busy season will allow you to scoop up great employees while your competitors are looking the other way or taking a winter nap.

Following these tips can set your organization apart from the fray. For example, we partnered with an established green industry company that had been struggling financially. With input from new company leadership, we were able to create a message about the organization and their open positions. In particular, we were able to highlight what candidates would get to do in these key roles and the impact and responsibilities they could have in the first few months. We shared these messages on social media, the company’s website and other sites where the types of employees they were looking for might see them. The result was encouraging. This company that once had a difficult time hiring now found themselves able to choose between a number of qualified candidates.

The rules of the hiring game are everchanging, but companies that are willing to adapt can excel at it. It will take some strategizing, some marketing and a little elbow grease, but companies that make the effort will thrive, while others will go the way of the Sony Betamax or the Ford Edsel.

Kate Kjeell is president of TalentWell, a recruiting firm that specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses find and hire the right people to enable them to thrive. The firm’s approach can be described in three words: find, fit, flourish. She can be reached at kate@talentwellinc.com.